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“We knew our daughter is missing after receiving her school box from her colleagues”

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missingKachalla Bukar’s eyes filled with tears when he looked at a blue plastic basket containing his 14-year-old missing daughter’s belongings.

Aisha Kachalla is one of 110 girls abducted on Feb. 19 by suspected Boko Haram militants from her school in Dapchi, a dusty, remote town in the northeast Nigerian state of Yobe.

The basket contains noodles, underwear, clothes and other items her parents packed to make her life at boarding school more comfortable — before it was interrupted by men shouting and brandishing weapons.

Now those mundane items are the only connection he has to his daughter’s recent life while he and other parents wait for news.

“When we went to school on Tuesday she was not among the girls that have been found,” he said, holding up a pink dress that was part of her school uniform.

For the father-of-six, the box and its contents are keepsakes to be cherished but also a reminder of the moment he learned his second eldest daughter was missing.

“Her colleagues who have returned then gave us our daughter’s school box with her personal belongings. That was when we realized our daughter is actually missing,” he said.

The Dapchi abductions may be one of the largest since Boko Haram took more than 270 schoolgirls from the northeastern town of Chibok in 2014. That case sparked an online campaign and spurred several governments into action to try and find them.

Many of those girls remain in captivity, though some have escaped or been ransomed.

 

Military Checkpoint

Bukar is not the only parent to hold on to his daughter’s belongings. Others hold on to photographs of their girls.

Alhaji Audu Danga, 50, sat outside his mud house in Dapchi clad in a dark kaftan and held up two dresses, one pink and one blue, which were used to distinguish school attire and home clothing for the students.

His missing 20-year-old daughter Falmata Audu is among the oldest of the school’s 906 students. Most are between 11 and 19.

A Reuters team passed a military checkpoint, put in place following the attack, to enter the empty compound of the Government Girls Science and Technical College.

Empty single storey buildings containing classrooms and dormitories were spread across the sprawling site, interspersed with skeletal trees sprouting from red soil.

Messages daubed on walls, blackboards and rows of empty bunk beds provide a glimpse of school life while missing ceiling tiles in a dusty classroom hint at the poverty that is rife in northeast Nigeria.

Amina Usman was one of the girls who escaped the jihadist group whose name roughly translates as“Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language widely spoken in northern Nigeria.

“I thought I will never see my parents or family again alive. I thought that was going to be the end of my life,” she said.

“I don’t want to return to that school again, except if I get transfer to another place. I am scared, even if the government provide security.”

 

Parents are not likely to send their children back to school

Frightened students stayed away from the Yobe school where Boko Haram extremists seized 110 girls in a raid last week.

The mass abduction from the Government Girls Science and Technical College in Dapchi reminded many of Boko Haram’s kidnapping of 276 girls from a boarding school in Chibok in 2014.

Anger has been growing as the government struggles to respond to the latest attack. Teachers resumed classes a day after the government for the first time acknowledged the number of girls missing, but students were absent, the Associated Press reported.

“They are too frightened to go there. We parents are equally frightened to see our daughters go there,” said Mohammed Mele, who has two children in the school. “Many other parents are not likely to send their children back,” another parent, Mohammed Ibrahim, told The Associated Press.

The school will reopen when “frayed nerves cool down,” Yobe state education commissioner Mohammed Lamin said.

The fate of the 110 girls is not known, but witnesses have said the Islamic extremists specifically asked where the girls’ school was located. Some witnesses reported seeing young women taken away at gunpoint. Information Minister Lai Mohammed said 906 students were in the school at the time.

The military rejected reports that its recent withdrawal from Dapchi caused the Boko Haram attack, but in a statement it confirmed having handed over security of the town to local police “on the premise that Dapchi has been relatively calm and peaceful.” The military has not said when that handover occurred.

The Bring Back Our Girls movement that brought the Chibok mass abduction to world attention has embraced the cause of the Dapchi families, though with some astonishment that the tragedy has happened again. As the fourth anniversary of the Chibok kidnappings approaches, the movement says 112 of those schoolgirls are yet to be found.

“It is terribly exhausting but we shall stand. We shall,” one of the movement’s organizers, Oby Ezekewsili, said on Twitter of the Dapchi attack.

The latest mass abduction is a major challenge for President Muhammadu Buhari, who has called the Dapchi kidnappings a “national disaster” and vowed that no effort will be spared to locate the girls.

Buhari won elections in 2015 while making the fight against Boko Haram a priority. His government has repeatedly claimed that the extremist group has been defeated, but it continues to carry out deadly suicide bombings in the north, often using women and children who have been kidnapped and indoctrinated.

In a reminder that some of those kidnapped have been freed, Buhari on Monday met with three University of Maiduguri lecturers and 10 police officers who were seized in June by Boko Haram extremists and recently released.

“The government remains unrelenting towards rescuing all those abducted,” the president said, adding that he has ordered all security agencies to “immediately ensure that every effort is directed to ensure the safety of our schools and students.”

Many fear the girls seized last week were abducted to become brides for Boko Haram extremists. Some of the schoolgirls taken in the Chibok mass abduction were forced to marry their captors. About 100 of the Chibok girls have never returned to their families.

Nigeria faces another presidential election next year.

ALSO READ: Parents of abducted Nigerian girls plan to join BringBackOurGirls campaign

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The post “We knew our daughter is missing after receiving her school box from her colleagues” appeared first on Tribune.

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